If my words did glow with the gold of sunshine
And my tunes were played on the harp unstrung,
Would you hear my voice come thru the music,
Would you hold it near as it were your own?
A few days ago I noticed a news broadcast marking the anniversary of a historic music event, the Summer Jam at Watkins Glen in 1973, which featured three groups: the Allman Brothers, the Band, and the Grateful Dead. As the newscast aired vintage film of the outdoor stage surrounded by 600,000 fans, I remembered the spot just in front of the bandstand where about a dozen of my friends and I had positioned ourselves, and I imagined I could see myself among the crowd.
The concert had been scheduled at the Watkins Glen Raceway for July 28; however, like many others, my friends and I arrived from Brooklyn or Long Island a couple of days early to stake our tents in front of the stage. In fact, we were so early that we had an opportunity to drive our cars around the famous racetrack. On the day before the concert, the three bands, whom we had previously seen individually a number of times, arrived to perform a sound check, which turned into a terrific separate concert for those of us already on site. Each of the groups offered more than an hour of music, and the Grateful Dead alone played their impromptu presentation for a couple hours, including an outstanding jam session.
On the day of the official concert, we had to strike our tents as the crowd swelled and the weather threatened; however, the music lasted almost all day, broken up only by the downpour of a thunderstorm. Indeed, the three groups played extended sets for nearly three hours each, and then all the musicians shared the stage for an hour-long encore. We camped at the location one more day. I then left for home a bit muddy and with a painful sunburnt nose; however, I also stored fond memories of one of the finest concerts I’d ever attended.
Therefore, since today happens to be Jerry Garcia’s birth date (born August 1, 1942), I thought this would be the proper time to remember him and to reminisce with a familiar song, “Ripple,” which contains an appropriate line to go along with my memories of so much music so long ago: “Let there be songs to fill the air.”